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That drum roll of a ball

by Gaurav Sethi

I shut my eyes.

Standing behind the leg umpire, who, in turn, stands by the batsman, this is my way to connect with their cricket.

But it doesn’t work that way. Just like they can’t open their eyes and connect with our cricket.

But in the hour that followed it wasn’t their cricket or our cricket, it was everybody’s cricket.

And no matter how much you meddle with it, twist and turn it, somehow cricket comes through.

So my eyes are shut. And I’m trying to think, and feel like them. Lasts no longer than a few seconds. I wanted to know what that drum roll of a ball feels like. What it feels like standing in a Zen like sweep stance, ready to sweep.

Snap out of it. Think he might sweep my head off. On a cricket field my instincts of self preservation invariably take over.

14 kids in three slots: B1, B2, B3, based on how much or how little they can see. Some kids can’t see at all, they’re blindfolded, looks like they’re some cool Kung-fu warriors, set to take on a more evolved Chinese version of Cricket-Fu-Man-Chu!They’re all in nifty tracks. And the song’s playing ‘from Chandichowk to China’.

Before the game begins, I take the field in –it’s bigger than the Kotla, but then most grounds are. Kids warm up, fielding gigs, throwing the drum roll ball and throwing themselves at it. Trust the bounce, trust the field, go-for-the-ball, flat out in every way. Watch these kids flinging themselves at the ball, looks like some Jonty drill.

Coach doubles up as umpire. He’s a chatty fellah so we chat. Rules: bowl underarm with the ball bouncing before the halfway line. Savvy field distribution: where does a B1 go – short midwicket, short cover etc. B2s further out. B3s in place. The kids who can see some keep wickets, do the running.

Let’s Rock ‘n’ Roll: 10 overs, 15 overs, whatever we can get in. This is the IIT Delhi cricket ground, Dean, students, the future of India is in.

I’m the lone wolf with a camera. And I’m at short cover, soon short mid off. Looks like KP is setting me up.

First ball: bowler holds on to the stumps, finds his footing, right (under) arm over the wicket. And announces: BATSMAN READY!

That was said again and again and again. BATSMAN READY!

That’s cricket for you: one kid telling another to get ready. And sometimes even the batsman used to echo his words: BATSMAN READY!

As there were 14 kids, no teams, just a fluid system where one B1 replaces another, B2 for a B2, and so on - everybody bats, bowls, fields. Just like good old numbering.

My chat with Coach-umpire sneaks me into their system, the coaching, the zones, even the World Cup. But I just can’t take my eyes off the game. Recall this much- it’s a plastic ball with metal shavings in it. I’m a metal head now.

Not since Gooch vs. India have I seen so much sweeping. Not since Sachin have I seen anybody sweep so fine. And though no reverses one kid did tonk it in my direction. Naturally I ran.

By now the press was in on it. The mobile press box was everywhere – mid off, leg slip. I was at the leg umpire’s where a batsman would cool his heels, often with this college kid holding him in place, like an old buddy, arm around. (Clicked that). Btw the runner or non-running batsman was always behind the line. The rules were worked out. This wasn’t faux cricket. It was the real deal.

While No.3 Govind was Gooching away, I checked with the scorekeeper – 4,1,3,4,2…hell, he was on 49. And then Govind tried to smash one towards Mech. Drawing but got Civil Engineered. He was castled.

Scoreman and I felt his pain. The coach didn’t. He clapped. Twisted guy claimed it was good to get out on 49. Not one for the milestones. Wonder what he thinks of stones? Was he inspired by Sachin’s comment?

Next a tailender. By the time the ball got to him, he would sweep once, twice, at times even thrice. Coach piped in with a kind word. Followed by the fielders, the bowler and even me –that worked as he swept square for one. Applause! Next over Walsh was out.

As he walks past me to mid wicket, I rave about his shot. He mock leaps in the air, ‘Just like Sachin’

Next ball he saves a full blooded shot throwing himself at the ground – don’t know whether it was his stomach, chest or face but he had every inch of him behind that drum roll of a ball.

"Batsman Ready?!"

That drum roll of a ball

Down to thirdman for a single

Batsman Ready.

Hot selling wickets - 'HIT' WICKET!

A good ol' fashioned Indian 5th Day pitch


Q said...

I remember watching one such game in Pakistan. They played with such enthusiasm and excitement.

I think Pakistan even won the Blind WC a couple of years ago.

Great coverage NC!

Gaurav Sethi said...

Cheers Q. This was my first game, TV can't pull it off. Gotta be right there, close in.

Q said...

Indo-Pak Petro Cup?

Whats that?

Gaurav Sethi said...

a good imagination.

straight point said...

great images...great coverage...

though i have not seen it live i saw some matches on tv...that hustling sound of ball remained with me...and the joy of just playing the game and contributing is just to be seen to believe...

Gaurav Sethi said...

Thanks SP. yeah, they're very enthu, a buzz about the fielders, and their filding. lotta clapping, calling, just no sledging.

sraghuna said...

Hmmm nekkid ... so you're on to covering live events now ... what these guys lack in the ocular dept they make up for in terms of sheer chutzpah! And nekkid if you can hear the drum roll then you're probably TOO CONNECTED ... get outta the way dude!!!